Comments Off on Controlling corn pests in Argentina and Mexico, the coffee growers’ strike in Colombia, and orcas beached off Chile’s Patagonia coast.

27 February 2013

Controlling corn pests in Argentina and Mexico, the coffee growers’ strike in Colombia, and orcas beached off Chile’s Patagonia coast.


Diabrotica, better known as the corn rootworm, is a pest beetle that causes major losses in the corn crop. Because the larvae develop underground, root growth is hindered and yield is affected. To control the pest, researchers have developed Diabrotica-resistant transgenics and rotated crops to disrupt their lifecycle. Scientists from the University of Buenos Aires‘ Faculty of Agronomy and the University of Illinois recently discovered (PDF) that the insect can change its feeding behavior rapidly by adapting to other crops, such as soybean (usually included in those rotations) and developing resistance. Studying the resistant insects revealed that those express larger amounts of enzymes that make them tolerant to antidigestive compounds and allow them to oviposit and ensure the next generation. The next step for researchers is working on the genetic manipulation of other toxic compounds for which the insect hasn’t shown tolerance handling gene toxic to other compounds which do not show tolerance.

    Coffee growers in Colombia have gone on strike as their crop faces commodity price swings, climate change and disease. Credit: Aleszu Bajak


Twenty orcas died on a beach in the Strait of Magellan off Chile’s Patagonian coast. Twenty-six more were rescued by the navy and local fishermen in the town of Susana, 90 kilometers north of the city of Punta Arenas.


Coffee growers in Colombia have gone on strike asking for higher government subsidies for a crop that’s increasingly being affected by commodity pricing, a stronger Colombian peso, and lower production stemming from climate change and disease like the coffee rust fungus. More than 50 have been injured in clashes with police since the strike started. The Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says his government already pays $33 in subsidies for every 125 kilos of coffee. Colombian coffee production fell by 35% in 2012.


Mexican researchers are looking at ways to combat the corn pest Fusarium verticillioides, a fungus that rots the stalk, roots and cob of the corn plant as well as wheat and other cereals. Javier Plasencia of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México is working to develop strains from different geographic regions that are more resistant to the fungal toxin fumonisin.


New archaeological evidence points to the production of corn in northern Peru between 3,000 and 1,800 B.C. Because the team found pollen grains on stone tools, they concluded that maize was actively grown, processed and eaten in the ancient Peruvian society of Norte Chico. This falls in line with the idea that maize was key to the growth of Andean–like many other–civilizations.

Workers excavating near Lima’s sports village have found 11 prehispanic bodies dating as far back as 200 A.D. Three sets of remains belong to the Lima culture–of whom not much is known–while the eight others are from the Yschma culture, which existed between 1000 and 1400 A.D. Peru’s capital has over 600 archaeological sites.